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A father along with his son and sister is driving back home in his car. The son continiously is throwing orange peels onto the road when suddenly the father stops the car and tells his son to pick the peels. His son disagrees on that and the sister is getting nervous, because she will be going to miss her favourite TV series. Finally everyone is getting pretty angry. Written by
This was New Zealand writer/director Jane Campion's first film, showing all the imaginative talent that would later garnish her an Oscar for the magnificent "The Piano" in 1993. Much is revealed in a short nine minute time span about an impatient man with a short fuse, a disenchanted, petulant woman, and a brat of a child. It is obvious that the man and boy are father and son (they even look alike). The woman seems out of place. She is listed in the credits as the man's sister, ergo the boy's aunt, yet she seems emotionally distant from the two.
"Peel" is an appropriate title, applying literally to the peeling of the orange that starts the commotion that leads to confrontation, and figuratively signifying the peeling away of the outer skins of the trio to lay bare the inner turmoil and conflict. The first phrase of the title, "An Exercise in Discipline," is used in a sardonic sense. There is little discipline involved in the battle among the three where emotions run amok and a ripple effect occurs from child to adults. What begins as a tussle between father and son for domination and control ends as a stalemate with father and son teaming up against the sister/aunt. To further emphasize the ignorance and stupidity exhibited, the entire show takes place along a busy public highway in broad daylight.
On a higher plane, Jane Campion indicates that major battles which may destroy individuals, families, and nations often begin over the silliest of occurrences, in this case the peeling of an orange and throwing the husk out a car window. The narrow minded among us can become so stubborn concerning minor infractions of rules and regulations that we forget how mundane and harmless such actions really are. The man decides this after much ado when the boy picks up all the pieces save one that have been strewn along the roadway. He surrenders to the boy's wishes and wistfully places the boy atop his shoulders to return to the parked car only to begin a new war with his sister, who is late for her destination as a result of the orange peels fiasco.
Color adds to the effectiveness of the allegory with the bright shades emphasizing the frayed emotions, lost tempers, and broken dreams. "Peel" is a much underrated short by a gifted artist.
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